As we get set to close the books on another year, it's clear 2018 offered plenty of “firsts” here that all helped foster a definite sense of change in the air.
Back in October, voters elected June Caul as the first female mayor in our town's 115-year history—finally breaking a “glass ceiling” that hopefully will inspire more women to seek public office here down the road.
In another “first" long overdue, our community took a huge step towards promoting inclusivity and tolerance with the inaugural "Pride Week” held in July. Several events took place, culminating in a cross-border march and then a flag-raising at the Civic Centre. While certainly not celebrated by all, it was great to see such widespread support from both individuals and the local business community.
As well, 2018 marked the first full year of operation for the new Rainy Lake Square, with a grand-opening ceremony held back on May 17. The season was highlighted by the series of monthly concerts held from May through September. Several family movie nights also were held over the summer while “Market Thursdays" and "Market Saturdays” were weekly features there.
It certainly bodes well for the square being a real community hub for years to come.
Meanwhile, for the first time in almost a quarter-century, since Howard Hampton was Attorney General and then minister of natural resources in the NDP government of Premier Bob Rae from 1990-95, our riding is represented by a cabinet minister in Greg Rickford, who holds not one or two but three portfolios in the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford that captured a majority in the June 7 provincial election.
In fact, having direct access to a government ear already has prompted the town to defer sending a delegation to the annual ROMA conference in January, with a decision to attend in 2020 to be made in the fourth quarter of 2019.
All this, coupled with the announcement in August that the town was acquiring the former Shevlin wood yard and nurses' station and then word earlier this month that Repap Resources Group wants to negotiate with Resolute Forest Products to purchase and re-start the shuttered Fort Frances paper mill, have caused winds of change to begin swirling.
It is a most welcomed breeze that has sparked renewed hope and optimism right across Rainy River District heading into the New Year.